Considerations for hand hygiene to reduce hospital acquired infections in practice
As veterinary nurses, our role as set out in the professional conduct guidance by the RCVS states that when providing care, veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should ‘ensure a hygienic and safe environment’.
This means that we should actively contribute to the careful consideration of day-to-day practices within the clinic that safeguard patients to ensure that when they enter they clinics, they are not exposed to increased risk from infection. Understanding the need for good hand hygiene in clinic, along with the appropriate considerations, means that we are able to implement good practice.
Infection prevention and control (IPC) is the name commonly given to the practice of implementing strategies to keep the risk to patients entering clinics as low as possible, by preventing them from acquiring an infection during their stay (Ruple et al, 2011).
The foundation of any good IPC system in practice must include a hand hygiene strategy as, without it, all other parts of the system will fail. Infection can be defined as the entry and multiplication of microorganisms to cause clinical, subclinical, colonising or latent infection (Ruple et al, 2011). Urinary tract infections, pneumonia, bloodstream infections, surgical site infections, and gastrointestinal infection are among the most commonly identified infections that can occur in the veterinary setting (Stull and Weese, 2015). While the environmental area that a patient is housed within or operated on must be kept as clean as possible to reduce the risk, the real prevention mechanism to stop the microorganisms being transferred from surface to patient, equipment to patient or patient to patient, is appropriate hand hygiene.